Book to Film

So, once you write the book and sell the rights, how much does the extent of your control as an author matter?

This has always been something I’ve wondered about. It’s especially on my mind with the streaming versions of work by Mick Herron (Slough House/Slow Horses) and Louise Penny (Gamache/Three Pines).

Slow Horses is a series based on the currently eight-book Slough House series by Mick Herron. This series is about the people and events attached to Slough House – the place where disgraced spies go to fritter away their time until they give up and quit entirely. Each of the Slow Horses assigned to Slough House have arrived by their own unique route but all work for Jackson Lamb with the full and soul-crushing knowledge that no one has ever successfully returned to the Park. The only thing keeping them there is the slimmest of hopes that they will be the exception. Herron is currently being feted as the best spy novelist of his generation, which may or may not be true. What is true is that he has created a memorable characters in Jackson Lamb and the sorry souls who inhabit Slough House with him.

So, on to the Slow Horses series that is currently streaming on Apple +. Having read the books before the series, I can attest that the casting is no less than brilliant. Gary Oldham is disgustingly true to Jackson Lamb. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Diana Taverner to her fully galling potential. The rest of the cast is equally well matched to their fictional character. The Slow Horses series also nails the setting – right down to the door that must be tugged and kicked as it is unlocked if it is to open. The mood is as sombre as the books, with a hint of hope and spark of human relationships flaring from time to time. The action is true to the books.

All in all, were I Mick Herron, I’d be pretty well pleased.

Three Pines is a series based on the curently eighteen-book Chief Inspecter Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny. This series is about the people attached to Armand Gamache and the almost magical village of Three Pines. Gamache is a supremely decent person with a realistic yet overly positive view of people. Three Pines is a village that isn’t found on a map; people arrive there by happenstance. Once there, they want to stay because it is an accepting place where positive relationships are formed and good outcomes are anticipated. As cozies go, it’s hard to find fault with the series.

So, on to the Three Pines series that is currently streaming on Prime Video. Having read the books before the series, I can attest that the casting is a bit confused. Two of the character names have switched and the physical appearance – in ways that are part of the plot of the books – differs from the books. It’s not that anyone is a bad actor, in fact the acting is excellent. It’s more that the characters were not cast in the spirit of the characters. The exception to this is Clare Coulter’s portrayal of Ruth Zardo! From the hair to her facial expressions to her dialogue – you know at once who this is. Three Pines has taken the setting and changed it from a Shangri-La to a noir dystopian landscape with everything but the pitchforks and torches. It’s not that some aspects have been altered; it is that the entire essense of the place has been switched to its mirror image. The mood is pensive and dark, not at all in keeping with the mood of the books – and remember, these are books with dark topics at the center. The action has some updated events that serve the series well while staying largely true to the books. Alfred Molina’s Gamache is excellent, except that this Gamache is plagued by nightmares, visions, and dark moments.

All in all, were I Louise Penny, I’d be scrambling for my keyboard to remind readers that this is not my Three Pines.

Does it matter? I’ve spoken with several authors and attorneys. Some of the authors are inclined to view a published book with the rights sold as a matter of it is what it is. The attornies spoke about rights to alter the nature of the material as a matter of US and European law. Then, there was what I know about rights from the the conference presentations I’ve attended. Those all stressed the importance of knowing which rights you’re selling, which I don’t doubt both authors did. And, I’m aware that it matters whether the movie treatment it is based on your work, which both Slow Horses and Three Pines are with varying degrees of verisimilitude.

All of which danced me around in circles until I stopped to consider that for me, how ever I arrive there, it all comes down to one simple thing: It matters that any treatments remain true to the spirit of my work. Good to know because nobody’s asking for the rights to my work, but just in case.

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close